Local infectious disease expert weighs in on Johnson & Johnson vaccine


HIGH POINT, N.C. — A third COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon. Johnson & Johnson is running trials and a local infectious disease expert tells FOX8 the data looks promising.

If Johnson and Johnson’s one-dose vaccine gets approval it could speed up the vaccine process in North Carolina.

“It’s new stuff and it’s really interesting and exciting,” infectious disease expert Dr. Jordan Smith said. “That’s going to be huge for the community, for the country. That halves the amount of vaccine we have to have. That’s really, really good news.”

Smith teaches clinical science at High Point University and is keeping a close eye on the characteristics of this new vaccine.

One he says is similar to what Pfizer and Moderna created in that it causes your immune system to react to fight the virus if you come in contact with it. The way it goes about doing so is different. The one-dose vaccine uses a fake virus to get your immune system to respond while the two-dose vaccines do not.

“Its DNA housed within a viral vector, a virus that doesn’t cause illness in us but can get into our system and go throughout our system and infect our cells,” Smith said.

The fake virus consists of DNA strands from the COVID-19 molecule.

“Basically the code for those proteins that are going to be expressed using our cells’ machinery,” Smith said.

Simplifying things — Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is expected to help us gain immunity quicker — with one dose that can be kept in a regular refrigerator.

“The hope is that will be how it is ultimately approved and that makes it a lot easier to manage than a two-dose series,” Smith said.

The phase 3 trial results are not available yet but side effects appear to be similar to the two-dose vaccines which Smith said are extremely safe.

“What we do know is several months out, the responses that we look for in people’s blood seem to be quite high and seem to be quite potent. Can I take it if I’m immunocompromised? Can I take it if I’m pregnant? Can I take it if I’m not only immunocompromised but I have an auto-inflammatory type disease? The answer to all of those questions is yes. The data thus far seem to suggest it will hopefully get the job done,” Smith said.

Health experts predict the last phase in Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial will wrap up within the next three to four weeks. We could see rollout by the end of February, early March if approved by the FDA.

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